*NEW* BLACK PANTHER REVIEW *NEW*

Not in my top 3 Marvel but a good watch all the same.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider (Michael B. Jordan) who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

Overhyped, maybe? Overrated . . . Now that’s pushing it.

As much as I commended Tom Holland’s scene stealing Spidey cameo in Captain America: Civil War, there was another actor I was looking forward to getting the full feature treatment.

And that was Chadwick Boseman.

He was brilliant. A charismatic presence that managed to make that seemingly silly cat costume look bad ass.

I loved how director Ryan Coogler and co introduced the team and explored T’Challa’s origins without making it seem like another origin movie. The dynamic set and a brief history of the mysterious Wakanda providing a context. No messing about.

Unfortunately not being a comic book fan, I didn’t realise the real source of T’Challa’s powers.

It skimmed over the events of Civil War for those who might not be as keen with their Marvel movies (But then why would you be watching this one?). Quickly establishing what T’Challa has been up to.

The cultural element certainly made this stand out or else BP would have been like any other Marvel film. The other world visuals were like something out of The Lion King.

Breathtaking. That GIF really doesn’t do it justice. The futuristic cityscape of Wakanda was a feast for the eyes. Rachel Morrison’s cinematography was sublime. Aided by an impressive soundtrack featuring the likes of Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd.

I really couldn’t fault the cast.

I have to commend the women in the film. Lupita Nyong’o was excellent as Nakia. An activist desperate to save the world and not fall into tradition, despite her feelings for the prince. She had great chemistry with Boseman and made that inevitable romance much more bearable.

Leticia Wright (Humans) was entertaining as the excitable techy sis. Her initial encounters with her brother were a little too cheesy BUT she won me over. Especially when she got to play with all her new toys.

The gadgets were impressive. From BP’s ultra-strong body armour to the virtual controlled car simulation that delivered some action packed set pieces.

Angela Bassett’s turn as Ramonda left little to be desired. Anyone could have played her. BUT she was nowhere near as disappointing as Forest Whitaker’s contribution to the mix. Just when I thought his supporting turn in Rogue One was bad . . . Sheesh.

Michionne from The Walking Dead was the scene stealer for me. Dania Gurira was brilliant. Her fight sequences packed a punch and her stern demeanour delivered the odd chuckle as T’Challa’s long suffering bodyguard Okoye.

The best Marvel villain?

Not for me. But Michael B. Jordan was a domineering presence (Seriously the dude was hench) and you did feel for his anguish once we learned a little more of his backstory. He even managed to make a ridiculous name like Killmonger seem menacing.

He chewed up every scene he was in. A worthy adversary to the newly appointed King.

I was disappointed at Daniel Kaluuya’s small role. I expected the Get Out star to have more of a presence. The Oscar nominee did his best BUT it just wasn’t enough.

I was more impressed with Andy Serkis. He lapped up the role with aplomb. A total maniac with his South African accent pinned down. Martin Freeman didn’t do too badly but I felt his part was a cameo that overstayed its welcome. The longer he stayed, the more awkward he stuck out.

BUT thankfully there was one inevitable gratuitous cameo that will never overstay its welcome. Hint, hint.

It was engaging, action packed and full of heart BUT by the closing act, the CGI felt as rushed as the finale. After all the build-up, things seemed to run out of steam and got a little chaotic.

From the hype, I expected a little more. Now don’t get me wrong, it was still exhilarating to watch BUT I couldn’t help but laugh when Mecha rhinos erupted into the already overcrowded battlefield. The effects got a little messy with the eclectic mix of colours clashing and things coming to a ridiculous close.

Marvel have mastered a winning formula; a perfect balance of humour, action and character and despite BP’s stumbles, it was still a solid entry and I look forward to more adventures in Wakanda.

It goes without saying (BUT I’m saying it anyway); please stay for the credits. There are TWO teasers if people are hungry for some Infinity War teasers.

3/5

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*NEW* THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI REVIEW *NEW*

Three sterling turns and an Oscar hopefully.

A mother (Frances McDormand) personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

A brooding country noir riddled with black comedy. If it wasn’t for all the profanity, you could have said it was a Fargo sequel.

Bold, brash and a little long in the tooth BUT a damn good watch all the same.

Funny how three billboards can cause so much trouble? Originally aimed at the local sheriff William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), one woman’s crusade for justice causes a stir among the community.

Frances McDormand is a brilliant actress. I knew exactly what she would bring to the table. That bitter Olive Kitteridge grit. Sharp tongued, outspoken, on the war path and not giving a damn who knows it. A powerhouse performance.

She stole every scene. You really felt for her. Her frosty reception with the town priest and her discussion on the definition of the word ‘culpable’ was worth an Oscar nod alone.

All aided by a sterling script, of course. Penned by none other than the In Bruges (Highly recommended) writer/director Martin McDonagh.

The fiery quick witted dialogue delivered that sinister comical edge as Mildred dealt with all sorts of unsavoury characters as the townspeople soon let their feelings known on the billboards. An awkward trip to the dentist made for tense viewing.

The pacing did test in places. Originally I felt the film slackened when McDormand wasn’t involved in the mix. A compliment to her performance. BUT it also allowed for some sterling turns from a highly talented supporting cast.

Woody Harrelson was excellent in the understated role of Willoughby. A man desperate to keep the peace BUT plagued by his own demons and the system he had sworn to protect. A tragic hero if ever there was one. A performance full of nuance that knocked me for six. Proof that the Cheers star can act.

I wanted more exchanges between the struggling sheriff and the militant Mildred. Despite her anger with the law, there was still respect between them.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the simple ad clerk Red Welby brilliantly. His run-ins with Mildred delivered several humourous encounters. Ol’ Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was wasted in his small role (No pun intended). He did his best BUT then again, this wasn’t his story.

I hope Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea) isn’t going to be typecast in the grieving son role. He worked well with McDormand and I liked the fractured mother/son relationship. It was just a shame that he was pushed into the background. Especially after a heated “family reunion” with his deadbeat dad.

The uneven middle act left me wondering where this was all going. The tone jumped from moments of violent, foul mouthed mayhem to ones of tearful reflection and sorrow. BUT as much as I was getting frustrated, I still wanted to seek out the end game.

The always underrated Sam Rockwell nearly stole the show from McDormand. His character Deputy Dixon was a particular highlight. I loved the journey that this dimwitted racist country mama’s boy went through. A rollercoaster ride if ever there was one. I hated him, I laughed at him, laughed with him and by the end, I felt sorry for the poor schmuck.

The second half of the film took a much more sombre turn than I expected. Especially when we delved a little more into Mildred’s and Willoughby’s background. It turned an incredibly witty black comedy into so much more as everything came to a thrilling and heart rending climax.

The final act and the bittersweet ending spoke volumes as it tackled grief, anger, hate BUT most importantly forgiveness. It didn’t quite deliver what I expected BUT I was left smiling after experiencing this redemptive journey with Mildred and Dixon, in particular.

Something I haven’t felt with any film in a while.

Try not to buy into the awards hype too much and approach the film for what it is. A brilliantly acted and darkly comical tale of anger, grief and redemption.

3.5/5

*NEW* AMERICAN MADE REVIEW *NEW*

Poorly made? Or silly fun?

A pilot (Tom Cruise) lands work for the CIA and the cartel as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

Imagine if Pablo Escobar hired Top Gun’s Maverick to export his drugs and you’re pretty much there.

Cruise does just enough to make this mad biopic entertaining.

I know his latest efforts have been mixed (to say the least) BUT it was true what the movie said, “He’s the gringo that always delivers”.

The opening quickly set up the monotonous daily routine of the unfulfilled Barry Seal (Cruise). Frustration reaching breaking point as the airline pilot playfully switched off the auto pilot just to take control of something in his life.

Thankfully it wasn’t long before the mysterious ‘Monty’ (Domnhall Gleeson) made his introduction.

Domnhall Gleeson has got to be one of the best supporting actors going at the moment. He almost stole the limelight from Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. BUT I digress . . .

He played ‘Monty’ brilliantly. Slick and cocky. Playing up to Seal’s desires and offering him the job of a lifetime. A new plane. A new life. BUT, of course, at a price. Always at a price.

The only problem was that once Cruise was set on his way, Gleeson was pushed into the background. A missed opportunity as ‘Monty’ was a lot shadier than we were led to believe.

Cruise’s Dukes of Hazzard story telling was a little too silly for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, it was very watchable and had an easygoing comical feel to the piece. Very much like Charlie Wilson’s War. BUT I like my crime biopics a little more gritty and hard hitting.

If these events (Accepting “Hollywood”‘s retelling) actually happened, I’d be smirking like the protagonist!

The pace was patchy and dipped in and out of places BUT I wasn’t bored. If anything, I was engrossed into seeing how far this madness went as Seal crossed enemy lines to initially to do some air reconnaissance.

Accepting all the risks with no assistance or recognition if captured or killed. Ridiculous.

The thrill-seeking pilot inevitably becoming the CIA’s golden goose for information. The gringo that always delivers. However, despite providing Grade A intel, it wasn’t long before Seal’s financial woes piled up. The CIA scrimping on providing an adequate salary. Shocking.

BUT ‘Monty’ has a solution as Seal’s aerial skills are required for a bigger and more dangerous mission. Smuggling drugs for the Colombian cartel!

This is the second Escobar influenced biopic I’ve seen in the last year (The Infiltrator). Now, I know he was only a passing figure in Seal’s mishaps BUT why did they make the big guy so weak and lifeless?

Clearly the film is riding on the Narcos hype; so why didn’t they watch the show and take some pointers?

There were still tense moments as Seal attempted to take off a mock jungle runway with a top heavy plane full to the brim with cocaine. The PoV shots had me wincing as the plane wrestled with the tree tops.

BUT the characters could have been fleshed out a lot more.

The stunning Sarah Wright (21 & Over) didn’t do too bad a job as Barry’s long suffering wife. BUT her character was still tragically weak. Even if she wasn’t just accepting Barry’s answers and decisions as their family were reallocated across the country.

Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) played the airhead brother in law JB well. A walking disaster if ever there was one. Alarm bells ringing early on that the dimwit will be a problem for Barry’s operation.

I was expecting Fargo’s Jesse Plemons to do more as Sheriff Downing. He was completely irrelevant as the events unfolded. I’m sure that was supposed to be a lazy statement on Seal’s ever-growing power BUT that could have been done without the Chief Wiggum-esque antics.

Lucy: “Honey, there’s money flying around in the back yard”

Barry: “I’ll rake it up in the morning”

More money than sense as Seal’s operation continued to expand. His smuggling became so lucrative that the hay in the stables was embedded with cash!

The silly humour and quips didn’t really work as well as they should have. It breezed over a lot of facts and picked the “sexier” bits of the story.

I actually got a little bored as Seal lapped up the high life. That was until his dealings took a murkier turn. Cutting through all sorts of crazy political red tape as he used the Iran-Contra affair to his gain.

Instead of supplying guns to the Contras, Seal sold them onto the Colombians while they smuggled Escobar’s drugs shipments back to Miami! I know, crazy!

Seal wasn’t just portrayed as as a money grabbing adrenaline junkie. Especially as the noose inevitably grew tighter around his neck as pressure continued to mount from Escobar and the CIA.

The final act was surprisingly dark and tense as Seal was inadvertently “made”. The error in itself was a joke.

The dark ending felt completely disjointed from the rest of the film as Seal went into hiding, fearing the wrath of the Colombians.

I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. BUT just like Gold and The Infiltrator, the producers have had to rely on a big leading performance to drudge through a patchy and mediocre affair.

Although it lacked depth, American Made still highlighted the hypocrisy of the CIA’s antics during the 80s and Cruise still delivered a watchable popcorn movie. Seriously, the Missouri plane chase was hilarious and action packed.

BUT the tone, mismatched humour and weak characters spoiled something that could have been so much more.

Narcos, it ain’t. A fun time filler worth a gander.

3/5

*NEW* DEATH NOTE (2017) REVIEW *NEW*

Bit of a bum note, more like.

Hardly worthy of death threats BUT yikes . . . It’s a bit of a mess.

High school student, Light Turner (Nat Wolff) discovers a mysterious notebook that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written within its pages and launches a secret crusade to rid the world of criminals.

Now, I’m not a hardcore fan. It has been a long time since I watched the anime series and I loved the 2006 live action Shusuke Kaneko movie. After laughing at the “Netflix Original” title, I went in fearing the worst.

The poor ratings and scathing reviews had put me off BIG TIME.

And for the first 30 minutes or so, I was . . . pleasantly surprised.

The hypnotic opening track (Australian Crawl’s Reckless), Margaret Qualley from The Leftovers (What?), Nat Wolff’s creepy pallor and bleach blond hair.

It didn’t mess about. There wasn’t a slow ominous build up. It got straight to business. If anything, it might have been a little rushed.

The iconic death God Ryuk had already made his introduction within 15 minutes! Willem Dafoe was perfectly cast.

As soon as his gravelly vocals pierced the speakers, there were goosebumps. I’ll admit it. The animation wasn’t too shabby. A creepier improvement if I don’t say so. BUT what do you think?

As much as I could feel for the teen’s angst about his mother’s death and his anger at the judicial system, I didn’t really like Turner. And that was the problem.

Wolff’s performance was a mixed bag. His crazy facial expressions and OTT reactions were too much.

I know they’re teenagers BUT really? This should have been so much darker. The death sequences were deliciously violent and gory BUT it felt like something out of Final Destination.

The premise was still intriguing. A book that can kill any name you put down.

Ridding the world of terrorists and dictators. Making the world a better place under the alias of “Kira”. The Japanese nods well and truly in flow.

BUT of course, there were rules. Rules that Ryuk conveniently decides to share at the worst possible moment.

I don’t know why there was a heavy 80s soundtrack BUT it worked.

It was good to see Eli from Boardwalk (Shea Whigham) in a bigger role. He nailed it as Light’s father. The vigilant cop desperate to put an end to Kira’s reign.

BUT it wasn’t long before I could see what everyone was complaining about.

“Okay, follow the rules. Your fingers are really huge”.

The humour was heavy handed and came off far too comical than it was supposed to. Unintentional or otherwise. Especially when Light shared his secret with his dream girl Mia (Qualley), “I have a death God”.

Wolff and Qualley had just enough chemistry to drudge through some of the hammier scenes BUT the dialogue was terrible.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) did his best as the crime solving candy chomping cyber sleuth ‘L’. A super intelligent wacko also hell bent on catching Kira. BUT it just didn’t work.

It’s funny if this was animated, I wouldn’t have batted an eye BUT seeing ‘L’ being sung to sleep by his Japanese aide, Watari (Paul Nakauchi) was too much.

The cat and mouse game was interesting enough BUT too much time was spent on ‘L’ and Stanfield’s acting wasn’t the best. It didn’t help that he was reduced to spewing fast-talking nonsense.

The pace surprisingly dragged when the story focused on ‘L’s origins. It took everything away from Light and reduced Ryuk to nothing. Dismal.

The longer the film went on, the sillier it got. The action set pieces and chase sequences were okay BUT it built everything up for a ridiculous and chaotic finale that didn’t make much sense.

With pressure mounting and the power of the Note taking over, it was only a matter of time before there was a rift between Light and Mia BUT their incessant squabbling got on my nerves. Even Qualley irritated the hell out of me.

And the twist, if you can call it that, was woeful and by the end, I didn’t care.

It was watchable enough and killed the time. BUT memorable? Meh. The original live action version was haunting and engrossing. It toyed with the moral and ethical implications of taking someone’s life.

This remake felt like a dumbed down version for the “ADHD generation”. Afraid to stick with a set tone and desperately throwing in any old guff to keep those pesky kids off their mobile phones.

No one goes out to make a bad movie and if director Adam Wingard has been receiving death threats for this than that needs to STOP.

I have seen so much worse. This wasn’t great BUT I think it warranted a little bit more than a 4/10 on the IMDb.

Started off so well BUT ended on a bum note.

2/5

P.S. Did any Heroes fans spot Masi Oka’s cameo? What was the deal with that Nakamura reference? Hmmm . . . .

*NEW* WAR MACHINE REVIEW *NEW*

A misfire on all fronts.

Not funny enough to be a satire and not hard hitting enough to be taken seriously.

What drove Pitt to do this?

A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon (Brad Pitt) leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé.

My reaction while watching this drab affair.

To describe Glenn McMahon, I would have to say that “he was a throwback to another era”.

A bit like the actor that’s playing him.

I didn’t know anything about McMahon before approaching this and after watching War Machine, I certainly don’t want to.

I don’t know whether that was down to Pitt’s performance. BUT it was a joke for all the wrong reasons.

His gruff voice, the face pulling and that weird run? Jogging about the place like he had the sh*ts.

I’m sure it was supposed to be comical BUT it was hard to show empathy towards a complete simpleton. Was that the punch line?

Despite the overlong running length, it was surprisingly watchable as McMahon made his assessments. Scoot McNairy’s droning commentary delivered some insightful quips BUT it went on a bit.

Free reign over his command as long as it didn’t involve bringing in more troops. Therein lies the rub.

Desperate to make some sort of impact and constantly dictated to by office bureaucrats and civilian advisors; it wasn’t long before McMahon realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

The tone was dreadfully mismatched. The Men Who Stare At Goats meets Jarhead vibe didn’t really work.

For all the shocking statistics and political sniping, there wasn’t really much going on.

That’s not to say that there weren’t moments to be had. I did laugh when McMahon mistook two Muslims for praying when they were actually trying to install a BluRay player.

The hypocrisy was ridiculous when Glenn demanded to know why Afghan farmers were growing opiates instead of cotton and wheat.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at the reasoning: “US cultivation funds will not support the production of a material that can be distributed in the world market and go in direct competition with the US. So we’re growing heroin instead”.

“People will vote for whoever their local squad tells them to in fear of having their heads chopped off”.

At one point, the man was literally left twiddling his thumbs for a month while he waited for the Afghan elections to finish.

The irony even more bittersweet when the US bureaucrats were dissatisfied with the outcome and fixed another to find a more suitable candidate.

A bit like now, really?

I remember Topher Grace (That ‘70s Show) being a good actor. It’s a shame he keeps getting in films that don’t let him do that. Highly unmemorable.

The same could be said for the majority of the supporting cast. Such a waste.

Sir Ben Kingsley was disappointing as President Karzai. He did his best with the material BUT it wasn’t enough.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) stood out as the disillusioned Corporal Billy Cole. His frustration at the troop’s increasingly vague objectives was spot on.

Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) played the shady government advisor Pat McKinnon well. The true orchestrator of this messy affair.

“The longer you stay, the worse it will be for us all. Please leave now”.

You could feel for McMahon’s frustration as he genuinely believed the manure he was shovelling. Receiving no “face time” with the President other than a passing handshake during a “Meet ‘n’ Greet”.

The man leaked his own report just to get the ball rolling. And even then he was short changed reinforcements by 10,000 men!

McMahon’s estranged relationship with his wife made for uncomfortable viewing. Equating the time they spent together to less than 30 days over the last 8 years. There was zero chemistry and killed the pace like a lead balloon.

It didn’t help that McMahon came across as such a tool.

His cross-examination in Berlin by a belligerent journalist (Tilda Swinton) was like wathcing a deer in headlights.

There may have been valid points BUT it was just one big rant aimed at an emotionally detached military figure.

I’m not sure whether that feeling of detachment was supposed to be the main theme of the piece BUT it was difficult for me to connect or care about the characters involved.

The closing attack on Helmand was dull and drawn out with the end result predictable and uninteresting.

Like the protagonist, War Machine felt lost in translation. I was left questioning what the filmmakers were trying to do.

This would have been more hard hitting 10 years ago when we had that initial influx of Gulf war movies; Jarhead, In The Valley of Elah, The Hurt Locker.

Calling Obama’s administration weak and hypocritical when the man has already left office seemed a little pointless.

Watchable BUT I can’t say riveting or enlightening.

Despite some eye-opening encounters, this was still a disappointing misfire that failed to deliver enough hard-hitting drama or entertaining humour.

2/5

*NEW* GET OUT REVIEW *NEW*

GET OUT and watch this!

A young African-American (Daniel Kaluuya) man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) mysterious family estate.

Clever, witty and tense. A real treat.

I knew this had taken some serious money in the States. BUT as we’ve learned from the Fast and Furious franchise, big money doesn’t mean good movies.

When I heard that this was directed by the guy who made Keanu. My thoughts were mixed to say the least. The trailers originally did nothing for me BUT I couldn’t escape the crazy hype train.

Thank God, I caved in to the Twitterverse. One of the better ones. A suspenseful suburban horror with a surprisingly talented and underrated cast.

I’ve followed Kaluuya in the British circuit for some time (The BBC3 drama The Fades and Johnny English: Reborn). I was happy to see the chap get a leading role. He delivered a stellar turn.

It was eerie and unsettling from the get go. The tension bubbling away.

What should have been just a simple ‘Meet the Parents’ trip turned into something so much more. Even the drive up to the estate was riddled with racial tension.

Director Jordan Peele tackled the race row perfectly. Most notably when Chris was asked to present his ID to a police officer. Despite only being the passenger.

Red flags were raised as soon as the couple crossed the Armitages’ threshold. African-American servants loitering around at every corner. A beautiful country mansion stuck in a backwards country in a backwards time.

There was a strange atmosphere to the piece that kept me on tenterhooks. Even the over friendly family conversations unsettled me. Something just didn’t quite add up.

“I love Tiger and Barack”

I couldn’t believe how much The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford had aged. The last movie I saw him in featured an unpleasant death sequence with a mermaid. Cabin in the Woods, anyone?

He played the sickly sweet father-in-law-to-be Dean Armitage with aplomb.

To be honest, I was impressed with the whole cast. From Stephen Root’s (Office Space) suspicious blind gallery owner to Caleb Landry-Jones’ highly unsavoury Jeremy. They all played their parts perfectly.

I actually jumped a couple of times. One sequence came out of nowhere. Just a simple dream sequence, one little noise . . . and BAM! Woe is me BUT it worked.

Peele unintentionally delivered one of the most iconic shots that has stuck in the back of my head. Triggering an unexpected meme trend and bringing a whole new meaning to the Running Man.

The questions piling. The strange white party parading young African-American men as fashion accessories. The relentless satire; “Black is in fashion”. Crazy.

The hypnosis sequences between Chris and Missy (Catherine Keener – Into the Wild) did drag in places and slackened the pace. BUT I was still transfixed as Chris desperately tried to fight against the trippy waves of ‘The Sunken Place’.

LilRel Howery played the comic relief as Rod, Chris’ conspiracy theory mad best friend. He was hilarious BUT I felt his schtick overstayed its welcome. Especially when he continued to carry on preaching about sex slaves. It killed off the tension for me.

BUT I could relate to his frustration as the police laughed him off. The only one fearing the worst for Chris.

Get Out definitely felt like a film of two halves. Peele transformed this seemingly hynoptic and slow burning suburban satire into a tense and (bloody brutal) body shock horror.

I won’t spoil too much BUT there were a few surprises along the way.

The one thing I always hated with these seemingly trashy horror premises was how stupid the main character was. I would always scream at them for doing such stupid things, “Don’t go down there!”, “Don’t split up” and my personal favourite, “Don’t trust that person!”.

Not this time. I was completely caught up in this, wondering how Chris was going to (Pardon the pun) get out of this situation. I was rooting for the guy. Leaving a brutal, nail biting finale that had me on the edge of my seat.

The clever splicing of genres may have got a little heavy handed BUT I cannot recommend this enough. A film worthy of your time.

3.5/5